(Jan. 31) FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A new sales agreement with Orange Cove, Calif.-based Booth Ranches should add about 1.5 million boxes of California navels and valencias to DNE World Fruit Sales’ resources this year.

The agreement follows several similar agreements with other California and Florida citrus growers. In September, DNE added a million boxes of oranges a year when it became the sales agent for San Antonio Orchard Co., Riverside, Calif.

Also last fall, DNE added three Vero Beach-based packinghouses to its stable. The addition of Premiere Citrus Packers, Hogan & Sons Inc. and Quality Fruit Packers of Indian River Inc. was expected to boost DNE’s Florida citrus sales by 3.5 million boxes this season.

In Orange Cove, the agreement with DNE comes as Booth Ranches completes a series of changes to its operations.

Otis Booth has planted and acquired citrus properties in the San Joaquin Valley’s citrus belt since the 1960s and now grows on 3,200 acres from Porterville to Orange Cove.

In October, Booth Ranches brought Al Bates on board to head its management team. Bates, a produce industry veteran, spent 14 years with Dole Food Co. Inc., most recently in charge of operations in the flower and North American fruit divisions.

Then in December, Booth Ranches acquired the Millwood Packing facility in Orange Cove from Stark Packing Corp. Booth planned to start packing in the facility by Feb. 3.

“Renovation and equipment upgrades will be completed in time to begin packing our prime marketing season supply of Washington navels and our late navel varieties,” Bates said.

Dave Bernstein, general manager of DNE California Inc., said the two firms had been discussing the sales agreement for five or six months.

Bernstein said the agreements with Booth Ranches and San Antonio Orchard are rounded out with grapefruit, lemons and specialty tangerines from Dimare Co., Indio, and Empire Fruit Co. Inc., Queen Creek, Ariz.

The primary label that Booth Ranches will ship will be Ocean Spray, Bernstein said.

Bates said Booth Ranches will ship navels from November to June, with the majority of the fruit moving after March 1. That fits well with the import supplies of navels that DNE markets from July to October, he said.